Monday, January 27, 2014

Devotion for today: Use them or lose them

Matthew 25:14-30: “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.  In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.  But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 
“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.  And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’  “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.  Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Footnotes:  A talent was worth about fifteen years’ wages of a laborer

I helped an elderly aunt of mine move out of her house into assisted living. When it came time to clean out her “medicine pantry” I found seven beautiful lotion bottles that were given to her as gifts throughout the years. “Auntie,” I exclaimed, “why didn’t you ever use these?” Most were so old that the lotion inside had turned to some indescribable liquid, not pleasant, or else had just dried up. Auntie explained that she was afraid if she used them they would be gone and so would the memory of the people who gave them to her. They were her little treasures. She didn’t see that they were given to her to make her life better, to increase her joy in living by having soft, creamy skin and that every time she would have used them she would have thanked the person who gave her the gift. Now they were stale and useless and had to be thrown away without any benefit to her or anyone else.

This is how it is with the gifts God gives us. Everyone one of us is as unique as a snowflake. Our physical features, our laugh, our personalities, all have a “one of a kind” stamp on them. The Creator, our good God, did that for a very special reason. We aren’t able to see it, but the world God created is like a wondrous mosaic, with each tiny piece fulfilling a purpose. It is cut to a specific size, chosen for its unique color, and polished to brilliance. Then it is carefully laid in the exact spot where it is needed. Voila! We now have the fulfillment of a purpose.

If we take inventory and work to discover the unique qualities and gifts God has given to us, we will see that He has a very specific purpose for us in the world. It doesn’t have to be grand or recognized by society, but it is important to God nonetheless. Are we compassionate? Do we have the rare gift of being a good listener? Are we able to explain truths without arguing? Can we make sense of a mess, either in someone else’s personal life or in the real world? Can we discern spirits and know immediately what is of God and what is not? Whatever gifts we have, we must find a way to use them for the purpose God had in mind when He formed us in our mothers' wombs. We must be centered every minute of every day on God’s will for us at that moment, and always begin and end every day in prayer. We must also learn the St. Michael’s prayer whenever we hear a voice inside of us telling us to back away from our special gifts and just coast through life. That can never be God telling us to do that. Be tough, be determined, and be without fear. If God gave you the gift, God will open the opportunities for you to use it. You, in turn, must develop the ability to hear and see Him in the world around you.

Don’t let your gifts go stale and turn into something unusable. Don’t let them be thrown away on worldly matters only, and not for the purpose of evangelization.  Pull them out, dust them off and get to work. Using them will only make you a much better person and the world a much finer place to live. Think of my dear Auntie. She could have used her lotions for the purpose for which they were intended. Instead, they had to be thrown out. If God can’t use us, He most definitely will find someone He can. Remember my favorite explanation of the personal judgment. We stand before Jesus with the report card of our life and say, “Here Lord, this is what I did with what You gave me.” Hopefully He will look at it and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Now enter into the home of my Father.” God bless us as we do our part in the work of evangelization so desperately needed in the world today. 
As St. Francis of Assisi once said: "Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you NOTHING that you have received, only what you have given: A heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage."  

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